PERRY -- A light breeze and sunshine greeted guests as the 24th Georgia National Fair opened Thursday.
Fairgoers were lined up two hours before the fair opened at 3 p.m., said Ron Goldsby, chief administrative officer of the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter
Inside Reaves Arena, the opening ceremonies were a time for both reflection and joy.
For the first time, Robins Air Force Base wasnt part of the ceremonies because of the partial federal government shutdown.
Empty chairs on a stage signified the absence of military members who are normally recognized during that time.
Theyre missed, said Randy Moore, the agricenters executive director.
Gary Black, commissioner of the state Department of Agriculture, provided a moving rendition of God Bless America as part of his plea for resolution of the funding battle in Washington.
The guest speaker was Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and first lady Sandra Deal, who both expressed their appreciation for the fair.
When he was a youth, Deal used to show hogs and cattle as part of his participation in 4-H and FFA activities, Gene Sutherland, chairman of the Georgia Agricultural Exposition Authority, said during his introduction speech.
He loves these fairgrounds, Sutherland said of Deal.
Deal said people were talking about his suit and tie at the fair. He had another function to attend after his speech or else he would have been in boots and jeans, he told the crowd.
Fall is a time for him to think back on his days showing livestock.
When I got out of the car and smelled those fresh shavings, it brought back a lot of fond memories, Deal said.
More than 3,600 animals will be shown during the fairs 11-day run.
Twins Arni Greer Tryggvason and Eyja Lee Tryggvadottir of Mansfield were eager to climb aboard rides as they came in near the midway.
They want to do the roller coasters and Ferris wheel, said their mother, Leeann Greer.
The two, now 4½ years old, have been coming to the fair since they were 20 months old. Their grandfather, Fred Greer, once served on the authority board.
By the time the sun started to set on the fairgrounds, there was a steady stream of people ready to take in the free concert and the pay-one-price rides.
This is Georgias celebration, Moore said. Us celebrating us.